Preventing diabetes and kidney disease
Caitlin Guess, MPH, RDN, CSR, LD
March is a busy month for the nutrition professionals at the Diabetes and Nutrition Institute at HopeHealth.
- It is National Nutrition Month, an annual nutrition awareness campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to provide education and guidance about making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits.
- The American Diabetes Association designates March 26 as Diabetes Alert Day, a day to bring attention to the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and its risk factors.
- The National Kidney Foundation celebrates National Kidney Month and World Kidney Day on March 14, a global awareness campaign aimed at reducing the frequency and impact of kidney disease worldwide.
While these campaigns come from different organizations and have different key messages, they all have one thing in common: the focus on disease prevention through healthy eating and activity.
Depending on your culture, income, level of education, and cooking knowledge, making healthy food choices may seem like a major challenge, but that doesn’t have to be the case. First, learn which foods are healthy and then focus on the things you should eat – not the things you shouldn’t. Choose food and drinks that are good for your health. These include whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables.
Two simple changes can increase your fiber intake which helps you feel full. Try these tips at your next meal:
- Include at least one fruit or vegetable with every meal. It can be fresh, frozen, or canned, raw, or cooked, but in general the more colorful, the better.
- Swap whole wheat bread, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta for white bread, rice, and pasta.
Stay hydrated. Choose water or other beverages that quench your thirst but avoid drinks with added sugar and salt that can increase calories and dehydrate your body. Staying hydrated is especially important if you are active, an older adult, or live and work in hot climates.
Be mindful of portion sizes. Many Americans eat more added sugars, unhealthy fats, and salt than is needed. Currently, about 75 percent of Americans have diet that is low in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, while more than half the population is meeting or exceeding the recommendations for total grains and proteins.
A good and easy way to counteract this is to follow the MyPlate guidelines at choosemyplate.gov and make half your plate a fruit and/or vegetable, then balance the other side with one serving of protein (meats, beans, eggs, or nuts) about the size of the palm of your hand and one to two servings of a whole grain or starch about the size of your fist. A glass of low-fat milk or cup of yogurt can round out the meal, and if you are still hungry, feel free to go back for seconds on the fruits and vegetables.
The health benefits that come from having a healthy eating and living style are numerous and can include improved energy levels, weight loss, and a lower risk of developing diabetes and kidney disease. Since type 2 diabetes is one of the the top causes of chronic kidney disease, by preventing diabetes you also reduce the risk of developing kidney disease.
Two of the most preventable risk factors are being overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle. By losing 5-7 percent of your body weight (about 10-14 pounds for a 200-pound person) and increasing physical activity to 150 minutes per week, you can cut your risk of developing type 2 diabetes in half!
Research shows making small, sustainable life changes works better than attmpting too much, burning out, and then giving up. Visiting a registered dietitian can help you make realistic lifestyle changes that work for you. They can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to fit your lifestyle and health-related needs.
For more information about National Nutrition Month, visit eatright.org/national-nutrition-month. For more information about Diabetes Alert Day visit diabetes.org/alertday and take the free 60-second diabetes risk assessment quiz. To learn more about National Kidney Month and kidney disease prevention visit www.kidney.org/prevention.
Caitlin Guess is a dietician/nutritionist at the Diabetes and Nutrition Institute at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence. She is a certified specialist in renal nutrition and is a member of the National Kidney Foundation. She is passionate about teaching others how to use nutrition for disease prevention and health promotion.